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Build Your Own Earthship: the Ultimate Sustainable Home!

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 8 Mar 2021 | comments*Discuss
Earthship Sustainable Home Building

Earthships are growing in popularity around the world and are said to be the ultimate in sustainability – but be warned, they don’t often look like your idea of a typical home!

Chances are, if you asked 10 friends to describe an Earthship, they couldn’t – because the concept is currently little publicised in the UK.

But the Earthship movement is growing around the world, particularly in the United States and in Third World countries.

Truly Sustainable

So what exactly is an Earthship? Designs can vary massively depending on location but the term Earthship refers to a home built from readily available recycled materials and incorporating alternative energy systems and water catchment.

The most popular material for the external structure in most areas is worn-out vehicle tyres. These are filled with earth, making a virtually indestructible type of “brick”.

Aluminium drink cans or discarded glass bottles are often used for non-load bearing internal room dividers but often these are covered with a type of “plaster” made from dirt, pebbles and sand on the site.

Earthships make so much sense – and although construction costs are currently similar to a traditional building, there are huge savings to be made over an Earthship’s lifetime in terms of free energy, water and heating.

Earthships also save the energy used in producing new building materials and the construction miles involved in transport of materials.

UK Earthships

The first Earthships in the UK were built in Fife in Scotland and in Brighton but neither are homes. The Fife building is a visitor centre and demonstration unit for sustainable methods.

The Brighton Earthship is a Low Carbon Trust project and tours are available on a regular basis. If you are interested in building your own Earthship, the trust also offers courses in self-building an Earthship.

If you want to create a truly sustainable building, then an Earthship home could be for you. It is now possible to buy architectural drawings for homes ranging from one to three bedrooms and there is a wealth of information online, including e-books, that can address any problems you might come up against.

The world’s first known Earthship was build around 40 years ago. Since then, it has undergone many refinements and ecologists describe it as the cutting edge of sustainable building.

Self Sufficient

One of the most appealing things about an Earthship is that it doesn’t depend on mains water supply and ideally, it should produce all – or most of - its own power for lighting, heating and running appliances.

Since different regions of the world have different weather and water considerations, obviously one size doesn’t fit all so Earthships are designed taking their location into account.

Often, they will be fitted with solar panels and a wind power system to provide electricity and some have multiple energy supplies.

Although water shortages tend to be an inconvenience rather than a life threatening issue in the UK, experts say that the whole planet needs to start thinking about the amount of water it wastes and the environmental consequences of piping water across huge distances.

So it obviously makes sense for us all to not only think about our water use but take steps to harvest our own water whenever possible – and then make sure it is used to its full potential.

In most homes, water is piped in from the local water authority and used only once before being thrown out, whereas Earthships are designed to catch their own water from rain and snow and use it multiple times before it goes back into the earth.

Grow Your Own Too!

Most Earthship designs include indoor growing areas so you can also save on processed and pre-packed foods – thereby saving more money and limiting the use of processing and packing materials.Several years ago, the original creator of Earthships felt that they had reached the perfect model – but then came the financial crisis which has hit the UK and the United States as well as many other countries.

He then decided it was no longer enough to offer an Earthship construction that would cost the same as a traditional home. With most people hit by the credit crunch, it needed to cost less. At the same time, research had shown that people living in Earthships could find themselves feeling isolated from “traditional” communities around them.

The plan for the future is now to look at addressing both the cost and the social issues by building a number of Earthships on a shared piece of land. This would hopefully allow owners to share some of the costs, such as installation of alternative energy and water purification.

It would also build a neighbourhood, so instead of feeling like “outcasts” from traditional society, like minded people could socialise and share their eco-experiences and tips.

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Hi all, I live in the south of UK but willing to travel further or even abroad to help build an earthship and get hands-on experience so I can once build my own. Looking forward to hearing from you's. Basha x
Basha - 8-Mar-21 @ 5:27 PM
Hi everyone interested in building a an earth ship in the U.K.I'm from london but have lived in vegas for a few years now as a circus acrobat.I am planning to go to new mexico this year and join a workshop on how to build earth ships. With the plan of building one at some point in the future back home or in italy. I am not sure when this might be but if anyone would like to ad my in instagram or facebook. ryanknightmitchell. Hopefully to to connect share ideas and make some plans to make this happen.
ryan - 3-Mar-21 @ 5:03 AM
Plenty of questions here, no answers though.
Daisy May - 3-Mar-21 @ 12:10 AM
My partner and I live in Glasgow currently. We are keen to learn more about whether it is possible to build and live in an earthship in a Scottish climate! Anyone else in Scotland or a similar climate thinking about it...?
Paula - 6-Feb-21 @ 9:31 PM
Hi Nick Please contact me on FB, also in Bedfordshire, Even if I dont chip in with land would love to help build. After years of watching building off grid, grand designs ect I would love to build the dream, even if not mine
HeidiCrumpton - 19-Jan-21 @ 1:16 AM
Hi all we are interested in building an earthship in central Bedfordshire, we have the opportunity to buy a 6 acre piece of South facing land that is on a hillside so should be perfect. We could possibly share the site with another couple/family and build together as a way of keeping some of the cost down, is there a forum where people can discuss their builds and problems and successes?
Nick - 21-Dec-20 @ 12:44 PM
Hi I'm interested in building my own earthship. Can you address me in any courses when can I learn how to do it. Thank you a lot
Fog - 24-Nov-20 @ 12:27 AM
I’ve been following Earthships for 20 yrs and gave a very small helping hand to the Brighton project when on a learning weekend. I’ve since done a training at Brighton but years ago. I’m on a quest to build one in uk , would love to join up with others . I’m going to look into Micheal Reynolds EarthshipAcademy for 2021 as my knowledge is rusty and would like more of the practical experience of buildingand the creative design skills ??????
Mehini - 20-Oct-20 @ 9:17 PM
I am interested in your courses. When and where can we get information about it?
Claudia Augusta Do C - 5-Sep-20 @ 4:04 PM
Hey, I would like where and when do you will have courses available? Many thanks
Guga - 5-Sep-20 @ 4:00 PM
I think looking from this we have established there are people interested in talking about it more. How best to do this and share ideas is the next step. Ideas please.
Ross - 28-Jul-20 @ 10:06 PM
I am very interested in the earthships home building concept.. If anyone is building one with decent know etc I would love to help toward the building and gain valuable knowledge for my help and manpower. I am also interested in finding a community to communicate with and get together. I would also be very interested in joining an earthships community to live of the grid.
Shaun - 28-Jul-20 @ 8:15 PM
I would love to attend a workshop or something on how to built Earthships
Joan - 25-Jul-20 @ 8:02 PM
Like many others comments on this page we would love to find some land and build a earthship. We would be really keen on talking to other people about this (details on how to build... regulations etc) and options for building in a community settin with people with the same dream and care of the planet. We are in Cornwall but would be willing to find anywhere in the country.... where we could afford ..... to build one. I'm wondering what outlets are there to talk to others about this?
Ross - 17-Jul-20 @ 8:35 PM
I would love to find people whom would like to work together on the idea of an Earthship community here in U.K. I’m a young 60 and fell I. Love with the idea in New Mexico. I have some finance but would need to collaborate with like minded folk. How do we contact one another on this site?
Zandy - 12-Jul-20 @ 9:07 AM
I really want to build an Earthship house but am not sure about planning permission, and feel that it probably won't be necessary if it is half underground and not above two metres. Is this correct, or would I have to apply for planning permission first?
MikeSynonymous - 29-Jun-20 @ 2:00 PM
Would love to build one in uk but not very clear about building regulations.If someone is doing the project then really love to hear their experiences.
Susan - 18-Jun-20 @ 12:44 AM
One day I would want to build one such earthship in india and encourage sustainable development with vast members of society
Murali - 27-May-20 @ 8:31 PM
I’d like to be in touch with others who want to build Earthship community. We have been dreaming about it for years and are now ready to act
Saciko - 23-May-20 @ 9:21 PM
Is there any way we can be put in touch with other families who are interested in a sustainable living community project? I am interested not only in the earth-ship dwelling concept, but also in a property that can produce sufficient food and energy to be self sustaining, environmentally friendly and to leave something worth while for future generations - with the advent of Covid 19, my dream home and lifestyle now seems the only sensible option going forward.
Natalie - 28-Apr-20 @ 6:31 PM
I am trying to find like minded enthusiasts who would be interested in getting and earthship UK group together, to pool knowledge and research. We are currently in Suffolk.
Mrs Bean - 28-Apr-20 @ 6:19 PM
How easy is it to get consent to build in France? I'm falling in love with this idea and remember seeing one for the first time on grand designs. It was in France if I remember rightly. Surely it cant be to hard as the rural properties already have septic tanks. And and earthship can help prevent sewage leaching into the land and water course.
Howie - 22-Apr-20 @ 3:39 PM
I would love to build one in the UK as well.I'm not sure you have to have the tyres buried, but I may be wrong...
Char - 3-Apr-20 @ 4:47 PM
Hi Everyone, has anyone in the UK been able to build a earthship in the UK? i would love to build one to live in if possible, but still cannot get a clear answer if you are allowed?
Trev - 30-Mar-20 @ 4:12 PM
Would love to build an earth ship but I don't even know where to start. I have no land and am disabled so only hubby could help is it just a pipe dream or is it possible
Lilly - 27-Feb-20 @ 2:42 PM
How is the project going Andrew? :) I would love to help
Ryan - 13-Aug-17 @ 7:30 AM
JolieBouy - 10-Jul-17 @ 9:33 AM
Last time I looked at this, (couple years ago) it was illegal in UK to bury used tyres in the ground. (A badly written law designed to stop used tyres going into landfill). Is this still a problem in the UK or has the law been tweaked to allow for sustainable bulids from reuseable materials?
rb46uk - 14-Jun-17 @ 11:07 AM
I am interested in sustainable design for rear/kitchen extension and a sound insolated garden house. Where can I get advice and design (architects).
Riti - 8-May-17 @ 1:12 PM
I really want to do one of these to but have no idea where to start and no money so just dreaming at the moment. perhaps if i start saving now I'll be ready to go in 30 years time :-/
Shack - 11-Apr-17 @ 9:57 PM
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